Are Musicians More Likely to Die at 27?

Dec 21, 2011 7:00am

With her untimely death in July, singer Amy Winehouse unwittingly became a member of the so-called “27 Club,” a group of her fellow musicians who all died at the young age of 27, alongside Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and others.

News of Winehouse’s passing at the same age as other music legends led a group of international researchers to explore whether the 27 Club is a real phenomenon, a statistical anomaly or coincidence, and based on their analyses, they determined that while musicians are more likely to die in their 20s and 30s, being 27 years old poses no greater risk.

They gathered a list of more than 1,000 musicians who had a number one album on the British music charts dating back to the 1950s, and for the musicians who already died, obtained their date of death.

“There was no peak in risk around age 27, but the risk of death for famous musicians throughout their 20s and 30s was two to three times higher than the general UK population,” the authors wrote.

“The 27 club is unlikely to be a real phenomenon,” they continued.  “Fame may increase the risk of death among musicians, but this risk is not limited to age 27.”

One of the dangers of fame among musicians, the researchers noted, is the “rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle,” often linked to excessive drinking and drug use, which greatly increase the risk of death from an accident or an overdose.

The analysis also revealed that during the 1980s, no 27-year-old musicians died, which the authors believe could be due to “better treatments for heroin overdose, or the change in the music scene from the hard rock 1970s to the pop dominated 1980s.”

The findings, they wrote, are important because of the important role musicians play in society.

“There is immense value in keeping them alive (and working) as long as possible,” they wrote

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